Andy's Top 5 Christmas gifts From the Heart not the Wallet

OMG it's Christmas already! How did that happen? It seems like only a few weeks ago I was stressing about my July tax return and recording my ice bucket challenge at the snow (I think that must have worked as I don't see the videos anymore). Now I can enjoy some relaxing shopping at the mall with my closest 1,000,000 friends and start up my paper round on the weekend to keep my cash flow solid. I love Christmas!!


As some of you might know, I run a small business called Social Star and we have a small but beautiful staff of six. We have been running for just over a year and although I had planned for world domination at the end of 2014, somehow we are not all millionaires...yet.  Thus, my Christmas ideas of buying all my staff Audi R8's full of gold bullion and Magnums of French Champaign will have to wait until next Christmas.  

So this begs the question - what do I get talented and hard working staff who all have lots of cool 'stuff' when I am on a budget?  How do I express my extreme gratitude of their support and hard work without lots of branded material possessions? It's a hard decision, but one that got me thinking of what my top 5 gifts on a budget would be. Let me know if you agree or have any more suggestions as there is only a week left! 


Andy's Top 5 Christmas Gift Ideas from the Heart not the Wallet:


Now when I say love letters, I of course mean that in a business context. Writing a personal letter about how much you appreciate someone is an almost lost art form. I was reminded how powerful this really is when I bumped into an ex employee from many years ago. She told me she still has the appreciation letter I wrote her on Christmas five years ago! Don't underestimate how much the personal touch means to people.


If your not as open minded as I am and think a personal letter might not be your style, try a LinkedIn review. Helping a staff member build their personal brand is a big deal.  It shows you care about their future and are prepared to put your name to it publicly. Also most bosses say they will do this but from my experience don't bother. So bother.


Everyone loves a holiday, but not everyone has the holiday leave required to go on that dream trip. I recently let one of my key staff take a dream trip to see her family overseas, even though she doesn't have enough leave and is going away early in the new year too. Sure it will require a bit of extra work for me but I would want the leave if I had the desire to go away. So go, live your dream! Granting these small favours keeps them loving where they work and nothing is more important than that.


If you are a manager it's likely you have some great contacts or opportunities your staff would value from. First find out what they love: is it technology, eating out, fashion, movies...whatever it is see what you can leverage to get them something special.  

For instance, I have blogged before about being a Lenovo ambassador so I can give staff a20% discount on any of their gear to buy for someone special. Saves them money, costs me nothing! Maybe they will buy me what I want, this awesome Yoga 2 tablet with a projector it's so BOSS! (Santa you listening? Or at least my staff perhaps...hello...) 

Another option is you could introduce them to someone they have always wanted to meet. A potential mentor or contact at a restaurant so when they take their partner they feel important. These small connections can be really inspiring to people if it meets their values. 


Finally the thing that I feel all people want at Christmas more than any present or gift, is simply you.  The gift of your time and attention is really what Christmas is all about. Spend some time with your staff, ask them about their lives and dreams, get to know them and share a bit about yourself too.  Time is our most precious resource as it's the one thing you can't get anymore of. Isn't that the most special gift you could give, one that costs nothing and no one else can give them - a tiny bit of you.

I hope you enjoyed my blog and I will keep posting over the holiday period but if I don't see you before the big day Merry Christmas to you and your families!


P.S. On my list was also a visit from Santa to your staff, but I'm not sure I am in a position to ask the big guy for any favours so kept this one on the low down.

P.P.S Thanks to my sponsors #Lenovo_ANZ who look after me and allow me to look after others too. #YOGAmyway

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Andrew Ford

Marketing expert Andrew Ford, the founder of Social Star, has discovered the secret of ‘Powerful Branding’. With a fire for unleashing people’s inner brand and developing business models to generate profit from an individual’s passions, Andrew leverages ground-breaking digital and social media marketing techniques to create digital strategies for clients to attract maximum opportunities. Having established a strong name for himself in the field, Andrew blends traditional business techniques with now-necessary tools for entrepreneurs to achieve scale, quality, and influence in their niche. Andrew’s comprehensive business background and qualifications consist of a Bachelor of Business (Marketing) (RMIT 2003), a Graduate Certificate in Management (MBA Executive Program, University of Sydney 2005), and a Masters of Entrepreneurship and Innovation (Swinburne University 2011). Continually on the cutting edge of his own education, Andrew has tested his marketing theories in forums such as the BCG Business Strategy Competition, which he won in 2005 against all Victorian MBA schools, and the Venture Cup Business Plan Competition (Swinburne University 2003), which he won in the Masters category. With experience working at Hewlett-Packard, Sensis (Telstra) and IBM, Andrew also has mentored dozens of junior staffs to help them achieve their professional goals. Meeting and influencing high-profile public figures helped Andrew to realise just how many professionals require more understanding and control of their public brands or appearance, and need help with the skills to use the many amazing free tools at their disposal to generate success. At Social Star, Andrew consults with clients to uncover their personal brand – both where it is today and where it can be tomorrow – and refine and define how that should be displayed in social media in order to attract their perfect target audience. Andrew mentors his clients to rapidly grow their business’ audiences, resulting in larger potential client bases and higher revenue. Applying formulas that integrate over twenty years of Andrew’s business experience and fifteen years of formal business education, Social Star specialises in building clarity and velocity for clients’ brands using the ‘Understand, Build and Leverage’ methodology. ‘Having a Personal Business enables people to have an authentic, congruent connection with their valued clients and partners, using their brand as the bridge,’ says Andrew. ‘I’m highly driven to work with the new breed of entrepreneurs and small business owners – people who have a passion for making the world a better place. Traditional business models are stepping aside as people follow their innermost dreams and my role is to see them operate within their values while creating wealth. Some people think you have to sacrifice what you love to be successful in your business, yet it is actually the opposite. Follow your passion and success will come.’ Lecturing at Swinburne University from 2009 to 2011 on brand dynamics and digital marketing, presenting at numerous conferences, and consulting to hundreds of clients, Andrew has seen his philosophy work that if you follow your unique path, based on your skills, experience, values and goals, you will automatically attract the opportunities you desire and achieve the success you deserve. Living his mantra, Andrew has created a successful business and attracts high-profile clients including musicians, athletes, authors, models, entrepreneurs, professionals and small business owners, helping them find their ‘why’ in their business and fulfilment in their lives. Business for Andrew is more than work, it’s personal. Running a personal business means that he is able to fulfil all of his values rather than separating his life from work. It supports his two boys while providing social opportunities, educational development, fitness opportunities, spiritual fulfilment and many valuable friendships. Social Star has now become the vehicle for Andrew to crystallise his mission in the world, to help people love what they do, supporting his ‘why’, that if more people loved what they did, the world would be a better place.